Food memories – the good and the bad – are the most enduring. It’s not just the taste, but the things that accompany it: memories of the kitchen table in a childhood home or of the person standing by the stove; nostalgia for a smell, a sound, a place or a time.
I quite often find myself thinking about these dishes of my childhood. The ones that I’d take on my desert island, the meals that taste like home.
But out of all the contenders, bread and butter pudding probably comes out on top. I remember the first time I tried it, at the end of a Sunday roast. The crisp top giving into the quivering, buttery pudding underneath.
No other pudding has as many cousins. On the one side of the spectrum you have the devilishly rich, like Nigella’s caramel croissant pudding – a far cry from bread and butter pudding’s 12th century peasant origins. Then there’s the all-American bread pudding (I’m thinking of the Louisiana kind, doused in bourbon). I even remember making a doughnut variety in my first year of uni: double cream, half a dozen eggs and stale jam doughnuts; I forwent dinner and ate two bowls of it in bed.
But bread and butter pudding in its purest form can often be the most comforting. Skip the cream and the custard all together and you have pobs: bread soaked in warm milk and sprinkled with sugar. It’s nursery food of the highest degree, but inexplicably calming.
Part of the magic of bread and butter pudding is in making it. The pouring of the custard, pushing the bread down with a whisk until it succumbs to its eggy oblivion before sending it to the oven.
Here is a recipe I adapted from Delia. I had some plums that needed using, so traded those in for the raisins. Lined up on the bottom of the dish, they create a deliciously tangy note against the pudding.
I’m hoping to make this ‘To The Table’ style post into a regular feature – each week I’ll speak to a different person about the one dish that takes them back home (alla Kirsty Young). So if you have a childhood recipe that you’d like to share please let leave me do leave a comment below.
8 slices slightly stale bread
100ml double cream
50g caster sugar (plus around 3tsps extra for plums)
1 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest ½ small lemon
freshly grated nutmeg
6 plums, stoned and halfed.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Lay the plum halves cut side up in a baking dish and sprinkle 1/2 tsp caster sugar in the centre of each one. Bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbly.
Meanwhile, liberally butter each slice of bread on both sides and cut into two triangles. Layer the bread on top of the plums.
Now, make the custard mixture. Whisk the cream, milk, vanilla, lemon zest, nutmeg and sugar in a measuring jug before adding the beaten eggs. Pour over the bread and leave to soak for at least half and hour.
Bake for 30-40 minutes.